Architectural theory and criticism


The building that I have selected to inspect and analyze with reference to the quote provided is the Papamoa Community centre which consists of a library and other community related spaces such as. This piece of architecture is located in a suburb of Tauranga called Papamoa. The building does certify to most of the quote in terms of space as three dimensional organizations, character denoting to the general atmosphere, inside and outside distinctions, and elements that define a basis for man's orientation is space.

In the quote, the concept of "lived-space" is valid, but I believe that the three dimensional organisation of spaces in the building heavily impacts the character of the spaces. Therefore I do agree that the spatial organisation does put certain limits to the characterization and the two concepts are interdependent. In the Papamoa Community centre I felt that the character changes as I walked from one end of the building to the other due to the spatial variation.

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Upon entering the building, a projected entrance has a roofline that is comprehensively lower in height compared to the rest of the building and this announces the function to the approach of entering and also acts as overhead shelter. Once entering into the building there is a confined area due to the limitations of space in the horizontal directions compared to the verticality as this is truly emphasised. Due to the lack of horizontal space, this space felt personal and confined and at the same time the focus of this space leads me inside (if entering) to the atrium area. This is how the three dimensional make up of the space effects the character.

The atrium area is a more open space. It could be said that it's an area of option as it is a connecting space that joins the library and community area and gives the public an option to choose where to go. This makes me feel welcomed as it is a transition from a private encounter to a more public space before I chose where to proceed next and also a large north facing windows all light to penetrate this space which reinforces the feeling of being welcomed. The three dimensional organisation of the atrium space could be seen as a progression from the main entrance as it is larger horizontally but remains the same vertical height and this allows the space to be more public due to the increase in floor area.

The main library area I believe is the main threshold between public and private spaces as. In terms of three dimensional organisations of the elements, this space is with no doubt the most crowded space with relationship to the library elements such as bookshelves, computers, desks etc, and with the most people. The bookshelves are arranged parallel to the long north and south walls of the library to create a continuation of the space rather than breaking it up but the series of book shelves do divide study spaces to the more relaxing spaces. The library space has the largest volume in the building. The vertical emphasis on the south wall is a lot higher than the north wall and because of this change in height; the ceiling caught my eye and directed it from one end to the other. A sense of calmness was felt near northern wall of the library due to the large windows that allow light to penetrate the area and also the space feels more enclosed and personal due to the lower ceiling height. Francis Ching reinforces:

Vertical forms have a greater presence in our visual field than horizontal planes and therefore more instrumental in defining a discrete volume of space and providing a sense of enclosure and privacy for those within it (124).

In addition, this northern half of the library called the "living room zone" has more homely furniture such as couches and low lying tables which heavily impact the character of the space.

In contrast, being near the southern wall I felt more vulnerable to the public eye because the very large south wall is glazed. As I sat down in the study area, I could easily notice the public walking in the main connecting hallway right beside me on the other side of the glazed wall. This wall was the only element separating me from the public hallway which is used very often. I felt that the change in volume from the north end to the south end causes a different atmosphere mainly due to the three dimensional elements which make up the place. Hence, this is why I believe it is important to distinguish between space and character because the two concepts are interdependent as mentioned in the quote. Spatial organisations influence the character of a place.

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The quotation covers ideas of concrete space and how a distinction between "outside" and "inside" is a concept that tries to aid the understanding of space in qualitative terms.

The one and only public entrance is located on the eastern side of the building. There is a blurring of the 'outside' to 'inside' due to the material use. The tiled brick used on the outside the building looks as if it continues on the inside because the interior floor pavement appears to be the same colour. It can be seen as a natural progression from the 'outside' to 'inside'. The only indication of the threshold is the automatic door that let me inside the enclosed space. There are areas of the building called courtyards, where spaces mediate between 'outside' and 'inside'. The courtyards exist on the south side of the building which extend outside from the interior rooms such as the toy library, the wet room, and the retail tenancy room. Being present within these courtyards, it made me wonder if I was inside or outside because it was like being in a room where there two missing side walls. This really stretches the question of what is interior space as three dimensional organisations because do interior spaces need four walls, a floor, and a ceiling to be considered as interior. Due to this transparency to the 'outside' this space could be described as a space that mediates between 'outside' and 'inside'. Every individual experiencing the courtyard areas will have a different feeling of this particular clash between 'outside' and 'inside' and it will raise a question in their mind if they are outside the building or inside it.

The quotation provided also mentions Kevin Lynch's understanding of concrete space and the new concepts he derived such as 'node', 'path', 'district' and 'edge' to provide elements which forms man's orientation in space.

The building has one main node (landmark) and it is the main entrance, it is the focus point where ever you are externally. The large over hanging roof line dominated my visual perception field as it stood out from the rest of the building. The height difference and the extrusion from the main body of the building give it aesthetic qualities. It is a distinct visual object that can always be seen from the eastern side and also during night time the entrance is emphasised due to the red and green lighting to give it visual dominance. It clearly presents itself as the entrance to the building.

Internally, there is one main path that connects the main spaces such as the community centre and the library area. On one side of the hallway, there is a very large vertical glazed wall to diminish the separation between the library area and the hallway. This tries to shows connection between the spaces and not separation. According to Francis Ching's descriptions on path-space relationships, I came to a conclusion that this main hallway is a "pass by space" which Ching had derived. He writes that a pass by space allows each space to maintain its integrity (278). This is true because the hallway does allow the library area and the community area to maintain its respected spaces and it also doesn't terminate and break up any spaces.

I think the main districts within the building are: Entry, atrium area, main library, toy library, toilet/bathrooms, office area, and other minor rooms. Some areas are more recognizable with identifying characteristics such as the library with its elements like bookshelves to indicate it is a library. Other areas need visual signs to indicate what this 'district'/ area is such as a wet room. The edges I think are the dividing lines between these districts and the main edges separating districts is the main hallway. Although as mentioned before, the hallway diminishes the separation due to the glazed wall.

In conclusion, the Papamoa community centre does fulfil the quotation to some extent in terms of 'space denoting to three dimensional organisation', 'character of a place', and the 'the concept of lived-space'. I came up with a conclusion that spatial organisation highly influences the character in the building. Also, in understanding 'concrete space' the distinction between 'outside' and 'inside is blurred as it is a natural progression from 'outside' to 'inside'. The orientation in the building is aided due to the clear 'node', 'path', 'edge,' and 'district'. I personally like the experience inside the Papamoa community centre because of its homely atmosphere and the unique set up as a library and community centre.

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